Alcoholics Anonymous & History of AA

 Last updated:
July 20, 2010

Alcoholics Anonymous History
Our Pages on Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous

“The Prince of all Twelfth Steppers”
Cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous

Dick B.

© 2008 Anonymous. All rights reserved.

Summary of Contents

(May 15, 2008)

  • Picture of Robert H. Smith, M.D. (A.A.’s Dr. Bob)
  • Books about Dr. Bob and Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Photograph Pages
  • Biographical Data
  • The Dr. Bob Core Library at North Congregational Church, St. Johnsbury, Vermont
  • Eulogy for Dr. Bob delivered by Dr. Walter Tunks, Rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Akron, Ohio

Alcoholics Anonymous - Dr. Bob

  Books about Dr. Bob and Alcoholics Anonymous

DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers
(NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1980)

RHS: Co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Our Beloved Dr. Bob (New York: The A.A. Grapevine, Inc., 1951, 1979)

The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches: Their Last Major Talks (New York:
Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1972, 1975)

Bob Smith and Sue Smith Windows, Children of the Healer:
The Story of Dr. Bob’s Kids
(Center City, MN:
Hazelden, 1994)

Dick B., Dr. Bob and His Library: A Major A.A. Spiritual
, 3rd ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research
Publications, Inc., 1998)


Dick B., The Akron Genesis of Alcoholics Anonymous, 2d ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1998). 


Dick B., Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous: His Excellent Training in the Good Book As a Youngster in Vermont (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2008)


Dick B., Dr. Bob’s Days in St. Johnsbury,
–working title of work in progress.

Dick B., The Prince of All Twelfth Steppers: A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous’ Cofounder Robert Holbrook Smith, M.D. (Dr. Bob)–work in progress.


Photograph Pages

(Soon to follow these Dr. Bob pages)

Boyhood Home and Birthplace, 297 Summer Street, St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

North Congregational Church, 1325 Main Street, St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

St. Johnsbury Academy, 1000 Main Street, St. Johnsbury, Vermont--founded in 1842 by Erastus, Thaddeus, and Joseph Fairbanks, with Thaddeus contributing the buildings (North Hall, 1873, and South Hall, 1872).

The Young Men’s Christian Association Building, Eastern Avenue, St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

The St. Johnsbury Athenaeum (Free Public Library, donated by Horace Fairbanks, and opened November 1871), 1171 Main Street, St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

The Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium, 1302 Main Street, St. Johnsbury, Vermont

The Fairbanks Scale Company’s scale manufacturing plant, circa 1880

The Fairbanks Scale Company, circa 1890, providing hundreds of jobs to people in the area.

A Panoramic View of St. Johnsbury

One of the Original Drafts of the proposed Alcoholics Anonymous first edition cover


 Biographical Data

The “Great Awakening” of 1875 in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

Judge Walter Perrin Smith and Miss Susan Amanda Holbrook were married in Vermont on August 15, 1876.

Judge Smith and his wife Susan were first listed in the North Congregational Church, St. Johnsbury, Yearbook, in 1878.

Their only son, Robert Holbrook Smith (Dr. Bob), was born at the family home on Summer Street, St. Johnsbury, Vermont, on August 8, 1879.

Robert H. Smith was first listed in the North Congregational Church, St, Johnsbury, Yearbook, in 1880.

Judge Walter and Mrs. Smith then became members of the North Congregational Church on May 7, 1883.

Young Bob Smith attended the Summer Street elementary school in St. Johnsbury from 1885 to 1894.

The 15-year-old Bob Smith entered St. Johnsbury Academy in 1894.

Bob met Anne Robinson Ripley of Oak Park, Illinois, at a St. Johnsbury Academy dance while Anne (a student at Wellesley) was spending a holiday with a college friend.

Robert H. Smith was a good student, debater, fraternity member, manager of the Glee Club, and Commencement Orator at his graduation ceremony at St. Johnsbury Academy in 1898. He graduated with good grades.

Throughout his years as a youngster in St. Johnsbury, Dr. Bob received excellent, extensive, and continuing Christian religious training from his parents. Bob’s father, Judge Smith, was a member, Sunday school superintendent, Sunday school teacher, and later a deacon at North Congregational Church. Bob’s mother, Susan H. Smith, was a member, Sunday school superintendent, Sunday school teacher, president of the Congregational Women’s Club, singer in the church quartet, and involved in domestic mission work at North Congregational Church. Judge Smith had been a president of the YMCA and examiner at St. Johnsbury Academy. Mrs. Smith was a graduate of the St. Johnsbury Academy, a teacher there, an Academy historian, and a member of the Alumni Executive Committee. All “scholars”—known today as “students”—at the St. Johnsbury Academy were required to attend Daily Chapel, of which prayer and Scripture reading were a part. They were all required weekly to attend a church service and Bible study. Bob specifically stated that, from childhood through high school, he went to church, Sunday school and evening service, Monday night Christian Endeavor, and sometimes to the Wednesday-evening prayer meeting. His activity in the Christian Endeavor Society involved confession of Christ, Bible study meetings, prayer meetings, conversion meetings, discussions of religious literature, and the observing of Quiet Hour.

In 1898, Bob attended Dartmouth College, which was located about 60 miles south at Hanover, New Hampshire. He graduated from Dartmouth in 1902.

Bob spent the next three years working at various jobs in Chicago, Montreal, and Boston. In fact, for his first two years out of Dartmouth (1902-1904), he was employed by the Fairbanks people, the St. Johnsbury scales manufacturing company for which his father had once been an attorney.  Today, the successor of that company is known as Fairbanks Scales, Inc., which is headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, but still maintains a factory in St. Johnsbury.

One of Bob’s friends said that Bob occasionally came to Chicago on Fairbanks business. And an A.A. publication added that he probably saw Anne, who was then teaching school at nearby Oak Park, Illinois.

Smith entered the University of Michigan as a premed student in 1905. Thereafter, despite his drinking problems, he received his credits and was enabled to transfer to Rush University as a junior, in the fall of 1907.

In 1910, after further training at Rush Memorial College in Chicago, he received his medical degree. In fact, his scholarship and deportment had been so meritorious that he secured a highly coveted two-year internship at City Hospital, Akron, Ohio.

He completed his internship in 1912, opened an office in the Second National Bank Building, and remained there until his retirement in 1948.

Dr. Bob Smith married Miss Anne Robinson Ripley on January 25, 1915, in a ceremony at the home of Anne’s mother, Mrs. Joseph Pierce Ripley.

Robert H. and Anne R. Smith purchased a home at 855 Ardmore in Akron, Ohio—the place where Alcoholics Anonymous was founded on June 10, 1935, by Bob and Bill Wilson.

The only son of Dr. Bob and Anne Smith was named Robert Ripley Smith. He was born on June 5, 1918, and he was given the nickname “Smitty.” Many years later, Smitty became a much sought after speaker at A.A., Al-Anon, and history meetings.

After a period as a general practitioner, Dr. Bob decided to become a surgeon. He received further medical training at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and at Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia. In 1929, he began a specialized practice as a proctologist and rectal surgeon.

The other child of Dr. Bob and Anne (Suzanne Smith Windows) was born February 15, 1918. Her biological mother had turned her children over to their maternal grandmother who, in turn, gave up the children to the Summit County, Ohio, Children’s Home. In the summer of 1923, at age 5, Sue was adopted by Dr. Bob and Anne Smith. Sue spent the next 17 years living with them and her step-brother Smitty in the Smith house on Ardmore Avenue.

Dr. Bob’s daughter, Sue Smith Windows, was very clear in a phone conversation with Dick B. that she and her brother Smitty regularly attended Sunday school at the Church of Our Saviour in the Akron, Ohio, area. She told Dick B. that the church was located at the corner of Oakdale and Crosby Streets. Sue could not verify that her father (Dr. Bob) had belonged to the church, but stated that he probably did because, Sue said: “We got to the Church of Our Saviour Sunday School somehow.” At age 80, both children recalled for Dick B. that they had been taken to Sunday School by their father, Dr. Bob.

Dick B. personally verified that Dr. Bob and his wife Anne became charter members of the Westminster United Presbyterian Church in Akron, Ohio, by “letter of transfer.” They joined the church on June 3, 1936 and remained members of that church until April 3, 1942.

Anne Ripley Smith died on June 1, 1949. Anne was called by A.A. Cofounder Bill Wilson “one of the founders of A.A.” and also “the Mother of A.A.”

Shortly after Anne’s death, and before he died, Dr. Bob became a communicant at St. Paul’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Akron, Ohio. This was the church of which Dr. Walter F. Tunks was rector when Bill Wilson contacted him in 1935, searching for a drunk to help. Tunks was Harvey Firestone, Sr.’s pastor and was a substantial participant in the events that brought Oxford Group Founder, Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman, to Akron in the famous events of January 1933 that soon led to the founding of A.A. in 1935.  Tunks performed several liturgical services involving Bob’s family.

Dr. Bob died of cancer at City Hospital, Akron, on November 16, 1950. He was not only the Cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, but was rightly called by Bill Wilson “The Prince of All Twelfth Steppers”—certainly in recognition of the fact that he helped over 5,000 drunks without any thought of pay.

Robert Holbrook Smith, M.D., left a legacy of many things not material: He believed that the Good Book contained all the answers to his problems and those of the A.A. pioneers. He read the Bible from cover to cover at least three times and freely quoted from it when asked a question about the A.A. program. He read voluminous amounts of religious literature and widely circulated that literature among the A.A. pioneers and their families. He insisted that new members profess a belief in God. He also insisted that they, as he and Bill Wilson themselves had done, signify their decision to commit their lives to Christ. Quiet Time, where there was reading of the Bible, prayer to God, and seeking of God’s guidance, were “musts” in the early Christian Fellowship. Dr. Bob declared that A.A.’s basic ideas came from their study of the Good Book. He professed that the Book of James, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13 were “absolutely essential” to the program for the cure of alcoholism. Of the Twelve Steps, while declaring that he had nothing to do with writing them, he said that, when simmered to the essence, they involved the principles of “love and service.” And he assured all, at the close of his personal story: “Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!”


The Dr. Bob Core Library

North Congregational Church, St. Johnsbury, Vermont

Subjects Covered

  • The “Great Awakening” of 1875 in St. Johnsbury
  • The Smith Family – Judge Walter P., Susan A., and Robert H.
  • The boyhood home and birthplace of Dr. Bob
  • North Congregational Church, St. Johnsbury
  • Sunday school and prayer meetings
  • Christian Endeavor Society
  • Young Men’s Christian Association
  • Revivals, Gospel Meetings, Evangelism, Conversions
  • The Fairbanks family of St. Johnsbury
  • The Fairbanks Museum
  • The St. Johnsbury Athenaeum (Town Library)
  • Vermont Congregationalism
  • The Village of St. Johnsbury as Dr. Bob saw it in his youth
  • The Town of St. Johnsbury
  • St. Johnsbury Academy
  • A Complete set of A.A. history titles by Dick B.
  • The Original A.A. Program organized by Bill and Bob in Akron
  • Books about Dr. Bob
  • A.A. Conference Approved Literature
  • Books about Bill Wilson, Lois Wilson, Dr. Bob, Anne Smith, Dr. Silkworth, Rev. Sam Shoemaker, Dr. Frank Buchman, Clarence Snyder, Sister Ignatia, Fr. Ed Dowling, S. J., Alcoholics Anonymous, Criticisms and alternatives, healing, devotionals, conversions, A.A. history, A.A. literature
  • The 16 Well-Springs of A.A. Principles and Practices
  • Items from the Dennis Wayne Cassidy Memorial A.A. History Collection


The Eulogy for Robert Holbrook Smith, M.D., delivered by

Dr. Walter F. Tunks, Rector, St. Paul’s Protestant Episcopal Church, Akron, Ohio

Dr. Tunks stated the following as he closed the Eulogy:

Here is the lesson of his life. God can use human weaknesses to demonstrate His power. No man need stay the way he is. With God’s help he can throw off the chains of any enslaving habit and be free again to be what God wants him to be. His monument is not the money he left in the bank, but the gratitude in the hearts of so many men and women who owe more than they can ever repay to his example.

 O God we thank Thee for the life and service of Thy dear servant, Dr. Bob, whom we remember at Thy altar this day. Bless and prosper the work of Alcoholics Anonymous, in whose founding he played such an all important part. Prosper the work of this organization that it may reclaim the lives of many who are ashamed of their own weakness. This we ask in the name of Him who taught us that no failure ever need be final – our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Gloria Deo

A New Awakening Recovery Path Today in St. Johnsbury, Vermont

Suggested Inspirational Walk to Places Where A.A.’s Cofounder Dr. Bob Smith Received What He Called His Excellent Training in the Good Book as a Youngster in Vermont

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Proverbs 22:6

Dick B. and Ken B.

Copyright 2008 by Anonymous. All rights reserved

Making available to visitors and those diligently seeking recovery from addictions, substance abuse, and other life-con trolling problems the major biblical sources of the original, highly-successful, Christian recovery program founded and developed by Bill W. and Dr. Bob in Akron, Ohio, on and after June 10, 1935

Your Walk Around St. Johnsbury

DR. BOB’S BIRTHPLACE AND BOYHOOD HOME; Begin at Dr. Bob’s Birthplace and Boyhood Home at 297 Summer Street.

     Snap a photo of yourself and Dr. Bob’s family home.  

     Visit the premises. 

      If you like, attend one of the “open” A.A. meetings held there.

NORTH CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, ST. JOHNSBURY: Walk to the Smith family church at 1325 Main Street--North Congregational Church, St. Johnsbury.

      Snap a photo of yourself and the beautiful, towering stone edifice. 

       Enter the church and view the ornate sanctuary.

Allow ample time to see, browse, and study the materials in the Dr. Bob Core Library, which has been graciously provided, and is maintained, by the church.

The Dr. Bob Core Library volumes will tell you, as to the church, where the family of Judge Walter P. Smith--Bob’s father--worshipped on Sunday morning, attended Sunday school that afternoon, and that evening heard preaching and united in prayers (and also attended such YMCA events, lectures, and concerts as were provided there). You will see where the church’s Christian Endeavor Society for young people held its meetings. You can read volumes of material on Christian Endeavor and on the history of Christian Endeavor in Caledonia County. You may learn the subject of the sermons, the Sunday school lessons, the Sunday prayer meetings, and the Wednesday evening prayer and Christian Endeavor meetings. You will see the extensive, varied, and reported details of the “Great Awakening” of 1875 in St. Johnsbury, which transformed the           town, the church, and the people of St. Johnsbury; converted hundreds to Christ and impacted on community life for decades thereafter. There is much on the history of the North Church; the role of Fairbanks family members as donors, builders, office holders, and             Sunday school and mission work participants. Governor Erastus Fairbanks was a lifetime Deacon to the church. There are many records of the extensive church participation by the Smith family members (including Judge Walter P. Smith, Mrs. Susan H. Smith, Mrs. Smith’s mother, Dr. Bob, and Dr. Bob’s foster sister Amanda Northrup. There is much material to assist visitors in understanding the relevance of the church and its training to the subsequent history and program of Alcoholics Anonymous, its founders, principles, and practices. You will have an opportunity to get a greater perception of the Bible roots of the Akron Christian A.A. Fellowship. And how these Vermont roots figured largely in A.A. beginnings--with its required conversions; required reliance on God; required five elements of recovery; weekly and almost daily “old fashioned prayer meetings;” stress on reading of the Bible privately and at meetings; stress on cultivation of the habit of prayer; regular seeking of God’s guidance; Quiet Time, the use of devotionals, and frequent reading of Christian literature; and persistent and continuing personal work in love and service to provide free help to new alcoholics so that they could get straightened out and live successful spiritual lives. In the language of A.A.‘s own Big Book text, the recovered pioneers were said to have become happy, joyous, and free. They had conceded to their innermost selves that they were alcoholic and could not manage their own lives; that probably no human power could relieve them, and that--when God had been sought and they had established a relationship with Him--God could and would do, and had done, for them what they could not do for themselves. They vociferously declared that they had been cured by the power of God; that the Creator had healed them of their terrible malady; and that they had unselfishly been moved to witness to others precisely how this miracle of recovery had been accomplished.

            Consider dropping a donation in the box.

FAIRBANKS MUSEUM AND PLANETARIUM: Cross Main Street to the impressive Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium, donated to the Town of St. Johnsbury by Colonel Franklin Fairbanks, and containing substantial historical archives, diaries, and records.

            Snap a photo.

            Visit the museum.

            Make an appointment, if desired, to view the historical records in their   archives.

THE ST. JOHNSBURY ATHENAEUM: Walk south to 1171 Main Street to the magnificent St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, a library for the town and for St. Johnsbury Academy “scholars” (i.e., students). Built in the Second Empire style, the Athenaeum was a gift to the town from Governor Horace Fairbanks in 1871. It contains a treasure trove of books, manuscripts, photos, papers, and other historical materials. Researchers and historians, as well those in recovery, can--as we did--spend hours and hours in the comfortable library amidst its well-stocked shelves and stacks.

            Snap a photo of yourself and the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum

            Be sure to visit the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum. Utilize the available help from     the       library staff, indexes, computers, and copy facilities. There are comfortable chairs,    adequate rest rooms, water fountains, and newspapers.

            Consider dropping a donation in the box.

Spend substantial time reviewing the history of the Green Mountain state and the sons and daughters of Vermont. Examine the history of St. Johnsbury, the extensive role of the Fairbanks family in community affairs, the immense economic blessings emanating from the invention of the platform scale by Thaddeus Fairbanks and the long-lasting success of the Fairbanks Scales business. Look through the town directories which tell the story, year by year, of the Smith family’s great involvement in the affairs of the community. Search the Smith family genealogy; the activities of North Congregational Church, St. Johnsbury, and the town’s other churches; Congregationalism in Vermont; the YMCA in Vermont; the “Great Awakening” of 1875 in St. Johnsbury; the Christian Endeavor Society in St. Johnsbury and in Vermont; Temperance activities; and the role of women (including Mrs. Walter P. Smith) in domestic missionary work, women’s clubs, local and traveling libraries, Temperance, and the St. Johnsbury Academy.

View on the microfilm reader the complete newspaper accounts of Dr. Bob’s boyhood days in St. Johnsbury in the St. Johnsbury Caledonian (town newspaper), which is today known as the Caledonian-Record.

            See the genealogies, biographies, and historical activities of the important sons of Vermont.        

THE FORMER SITE OF THE ST. JOHNSBURY YMCA BUILDING (destroyed by fire in 1984 and then demolished), Eastern Avenue. 

Rev. Henry Fairbanks donated the YMCA building which was constructed in 1885 and located just off Main Street at 113 Eastern Avenue (until it was destroyed by fire in 1984). Prior to the erection of the building, the state Executive Committee of the Vermont YMCA had conducted Gospel “canvasses” in St. Johnsbury (and throughout Vermont for several years beginning in 1875) and--through the work of lay evangelists--catalyzed the “Great Awakening” of 1875 in St. Johnsbury itself through “Gospel Meetings” which built on the prayers for revival and “union meetings” of the local churches of several denominations in St. Johnsbury. Even the Fairbanks Scales plant was opened at noon time for prayer meetings. Hundreds were converted to Christ during this revival work. At least one report made at the national YMCA Convention in Richmond, Virginia, in 1875, placed the number of decisions for Christ at 1,500--almost one-third of the town population. And YMCA people continued the evangelical work for some time after 1875.

            Dr. Bob’s father, Judge Walter P. Smith, was president of the St. Johnsbury       YMCA in 1895 and 1897. Fairbanks family members were leaders in its         evangelical work, beginning no later than the annual State of Vermont YMCA         Convention held in Norwich in November of 1874.

The YMCA provided Bible classes, Bible studies, Bible conversation classes, and meetings for young men. It conducted lectures, concerts, and other events in the churches and at St. Johnsbury Academy. It provided gym facilities for young men; and it worked in close cooperation with St. Johnsbury Academy, running regular advertisements in the student newspaper.

THE COURT HOUSE, Main Street, and Judge Walter P. Smith (Bob’s father)

Just across the street from the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum is the court house where Dr. Bob’s father, Walter Perrin Smith, served many successive elected terms as Probate Judge handling the settling of estates and probate of wills. The Judge is also frequently listed and recorded among the community lawyers. He served as a town agent and village auditor; superintendent of schools; State’s attorney; and representative for St. Johnsbury in the Vermont Legislature. At the North Congregational Church, St. Johnsbury, he was a Sunday school teacher for many years, a Sunday school superintendent, and a Deacon. Prior to becoming a lawyer, he taught in schools and served as Principal of Hardwick Academy. He served St. Johnsbury Academy as one of its examiners. The Judge was long involved in the local banking system as an investor, director, trustee, and officer in three of the town’s banks--Merchants National, Passumpsic Savings, and First National. He became President of Carrick Brothers Granite Company. He was a widely sought-after speaker at political events, a Republican, and a well-known Congregationalist.

ST. JOHNSBURY ACADEMY, 1000 Main Street (Mrs. Walter Smith and Bob himself)

Dominating the south end of Main Street is the campus of St. Johnsbury Academy, which was founded by the three Fairbanks brothers--Thaddeus, Erastus, and Joseph P. The details of this unusual facility can best be learned by making an appointment in advance to visit with the Academy archivist, Joanne Bertrand, who works at the Grace Orcutt Library on campus.

Snap several photos of yourself, of the Academy buildings, and of South Church next door where daily chapel was often held.

Located in the archives are many of the founding papers requiring religious training and Bible study. Academy governing papers required that trustees be members of a Congregational Church, that “scholars” attend Daily Chapel where there were Scripture readings, sermons, exhortations, prayers, and singing. All scholars were duty-bound to attend a church service and a Bible study once each week.

Important archival and library papers include school catalogs showing the textbooks, curricula, trustees, Principal, staff, teachers, and scholars in attendance. There are histories of the Academy (at least one of which was partially prepared by Mrs. Walter P. Smith), attendance cards for Bob and, earlier, his mother; photographs of Dr. Bob and of his graduating class; Dr. Bob’s commencement program which names him as Orator; accounts of Bob’s activities as Manager and member of the Glee Club; Dr. Bob’s participation  in debates, a fraternity, and class offices; class notes about Dr. Bob; and many copies of the student newspaper (both at the Academy and at the Athenaeum). Papers also show Bob’s mother as an Academy student, then an Academy teacher, then an active member of the Alumni Executive Committee, presenter of a large portion of the school’s history at major celebrations, and author of two chapters of a book on the history of the Academy.

Robert Holbrook Smith (A.A.’s Dr. Bob)--who was born August 8, 1879, in the family home at 20 Summer Street in St. Johnsbury--is listed as a member and Sunday school scholar at North Congregational Church, St. Johnsbury. He himself wrote that he was active in the Christian Endeavor Society of North Congregational Church. He wrote, and records confirm, that he and his family regularly attended Sunday morning service, Sunday school, and Sunday evening service, as well as the Christian Endeavor meeting. Frequently, Bob attended the church prayer meeting on Wednesday and regularly attended Christian Endeavor meetings on Wednesday. He attended the local Summer Street School and was later a scholar at St. Johnsbury Academy from 1894 to 1898 (at which time he graduated). He attended and graduated from Dartmouth. And he received medical training at the University of Michigan and at Rush. He later received specialist training as a proctologist and practiced medicine in Akron, Ohio. Plagued with alcoholism since college days, he prayed for recovery with a small group of Christians at the home of inventor T. Henry Williams in Akron. Shortly after he thus sought God’s help, he attained sobriety. The date was June 10, 1935, regarded as the founding day of A.A. by Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson of New York. From that date on, Dr. Bob personally helped over 5,000 drunks to recover, without charge to the drunk. This selfless service led A.A. cofounder Bill Wilson to dub Dr. Bob the “Prince of all Twelfth Steppers.” Dr. Bob had met Anne Robinson Ripley (his wife-to-be) at a St. Johnsbury Academy dance. He later married her at her home in Illinois and settled in the family home at 855 Ardmore Avenue in Akron where A.A. is said to have been founded. Anne Smith died first; Dr. Bob died shortly thereafter; and the two are buried in Akron. Both Dr. Bob and his wife were deeply committed to serving the Creator; were devout Christians; and were strong believers in Bible study, prayer, and seeking God’s guidance. Both widely read, recommended, and distributed Christian literature to early A.A. pioneers. And Dr. Bob assured newcomers to A.A. that--if they went to any lengths to establish their relationship with God, accept Christ, follow his teachings, abstain from drinking and temptation, diligently seek God’s help, and witness in love and service to newcomers in recovery: “Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th ed., p. 181).

The “excellent training” Dr. Bob had received in the “Good Book” as a youngster in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, provided the foundation for the “absolutely essential” Bible-basics of the early A.A. program. That original program achieved a documented, 75% success rate in Akron [and was followed up by the documented, 93% success rate in Cleveland (under Dr. Bob’s sponsee, Clarence Snyder)] among seemingly-hopeless, medically-incurable, real alcoholics who went to any lengths to be cured. He declared that A.A.’s basic ideas came from the Bible study done by the A.A. pioneers--particularly in the Book of James, in the Sermon on the Mount, and in 1 Corinthians 13.

Dr. Bob’s mother, Mrs. Walter P. Smith (Susan Holbrook Smith--born Susan Amanda Holbrook), can--in the alumni, faculty, and other library records of St. Johnsbury Academy, in St. Johnsbury Athenaeum records, in women’s affairs records, in St. Johnsbury Caledonian newspaper articles, and in missionary records--be seen as very much involved in: (1)  church service, (2) Sunday school service, (3) the Vermont Domestic Missionary Society, (4) libraries, (5) education, (6) Temperance activities, and (7) music. She was also involved in St. Johnsbury community affairs through other teaching and other religious activities, and through other Academy-related activities. Susan attended St. Johnsbury Academy and graduated from it in 1874. She then taught at St. Johnsbury Academy from 1874 to 1876. She and Judge Smith were married shortly thereafter after. Based on our intensive research over the past eight months, it seems very likely that both of Dr. Bob’s parents were impacted by the “Great Awakening” of 1875 in St. Johnsbury. Both were listed in North Congregational Church records in beginning in 1878 and became members in 1882. In the church, Mrs. Smith served as Sunday school teacher, Sunday school superintendent, Intermediate Department superintendent, president of the Women’s Club, editor of its cook book volume, member of the Vermont Domestic Missionary Society, and participant in the church quartet. She is listed as a participant in the Women‘s Christian Temperance Union. Through her activity with the International Women’s Clubs and the St. Johnsbury Women’s Club, she was singled out as the well-known and tireless worker for the free state library facilities in rural communities. She became a member of the State Library Commission. 

Gloria Deo

 Dick B., PO Box 837, Kihei, HI 96753-0837; 808 874 4876; dickb@dickb.coim;;

[Dick B. is an author, historian, Bible student, retired attorney, and active recovered member of the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. He attained sobriety on April 21, 1986; has sponsored more than 100 men in their recovery; has published 33 titles on the history of early A..A., its spiritual roots, and successes. Today, he works with his son Ken, who is president of Good Book Publishing Company, a co-author, and an editor].



The North Congregational Church

Dr. Bob’s boyhood home

"One of the first drafts for the original Big Book Cover of Alcoholics Anonymous First Edition" It Shows the intent of the publisher that it feature the book as a 'Pathway to a Cure"


Dick B.'s son Ken
P.O. Box 837
Kihei, Hawaii
Tel.: (808) 276-4945
Fax: (808) 874-4876

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Trademarks and Disclaimer: ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS®, A.A.®, and Big Book® are registered trademarks of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Dick B.'s web site, Paradise Research Publications, Inc., and Good Book Publishing Company are neither endorsed nor approved by nor associated or affiliated with Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.